The Last Word With Lawrence O’Donnell

A Moment Unto Itself

msnbc - "55-year-old protester under tarp with gun preparing for altercation". Detail of frame from The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 5 January 2016.

This is a moment in American history.

True enough, one can take that in various contexts; it is certainly a moment in American history, but is it significant? To wit, maybe you missed the chyron because you were in the bathroom. Or, you know, were just watching something else. That you watched a game show or answered the call is certainly a matter of, and moment in, American history, but it doesn’t really mean a whole lot unless you suffer a stroke as a result.

Or, you know. Something. I don’t know.

The msnbc chyron really says―

55-year-old protester under tarp with gun preparing for altercation

―and it seems that ought to count for something.

And that really is a fifty-five year old man with some manner of grudge against society sitting under a tarp, holding a gun, waiting for someone to try to arrest him.

It seems significant. The question of meaning, however, gapes.

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Image note: “55-year-old protester under tarp with gun preparing for altercation” ― Tony Dokopouil of msnbc reports from Princeton, Oregon, where armed insurgents have occupied a federal wildlife reserve, 5 January 2016. Detail of frame from The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell.

O’Donnell, Lawrence. “Oregon insurgents testing law enforcement”. The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell. msnbc. 5 January 2016.

A Note Regarding the Obvious, a Point That Should Not Need Making

Although a pathetic preface, I would recall here a common discussion my father and I had through the years of my youth, about business and politics, results-oriented justifications, and other such notions. Maybe it’s just easier to go with the sports version*: By the time one achieves the premier level of anything ….

You can fill in the blank, as such. You don’t get to the top of the business world by making bad decisions. You don’t get to the White House without being smart. You don’t get to the NFL without having respectable talent and discipline.

And so on.

Thus prefaced, we might consider Steve Benen’s explanation:

PPP has discovered that Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) is in even worse shape, with an approval rating of 32%. And like McConnell in December, the Arizona Republican is responding to the news by blaming the messenger.

Who am I?Responding to a survey from Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling that showed his popularity in the gutter, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) on Monday questioned the accuracy of the pollster. […]

“If we believed PPP polls,” Flake told The Daily Caller’s Matt Lewis, “I wouldn’t be here at all.”

It’s not clear what Flake is referring to, exactly. PPP had Flake leading for much of his 2012 race, including a five-point margin shortly before Election Day, when he won by three. Flake would have lost if he believed PPP results? That doesn’t make sense.

We all know that the political art is that of rhetorical sleight, but they’re not even trying.

The branches of the United States government are the premier league of rhetorical sleight in the nation. The Executive and Legislative weave tangles of rhetoric, and the Judicial wields a sword to cut away the knots.

Whatever else, I think we can expect better of Flake and his Republican colleagues. PPP outdid Pew, the major news outlets, and far exceeded Rasmussen and Gallup in the 2012 cycle. Benen reminds—

If there was ever a time GOP officials could dismiss Public Policy Polling results as unreliable, that day has long since passed.

—but at least as important is Flake’s flaccid critique against PPP. “If we believed PPP polls, I wouldn’t be here at all.”

Dealing with poll numbers can be a tricky business, but come on, Senator, at least show up for the game.

I promise you, sir, the polling firm isn’t the problem.
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* A former collegiate football coach, he is still the most reliable mind I know with whom to discuss the game, though that is hardly surprising given the lack of performance pressure since he’s not analyzing for television or anything like that.

I know, I know. Just … just work with me, here. Thanks.

Allow me, please, to reiterate the preceding note.